Response (4.1) to Marvin Meyer: The Thirteenth Daimon

4.1 porj e- As for Meyer’s insistence that I “must know, these are not ‘mistranslations’ at all, but rather they represent alternative ways of understanding a difficult text” and that he has footnoted the alternatives, I think we need to be very clear here. When is an alternative “erroneous”?

Let’s look at porj e- (separate from) which Meyer is still insisting can be translated “set apart for.” There was no footnote with another translation in the popular edition, but one can be found in the Critical Edition now which understands “separate from” to be an alternative. But is it an alternative? Crum (271b-272a) says that the expression means a) “divide from” in transitive sense and “be divided from” in intransitive sense; b) “divide into” in transitive sense and “be divided into” in intransitive sense. Now when one examines actual Coptic sentences that are translations of Greek originals, it is clear that a) is used to mean to divide or separate one thing from another and b) is used to mean to divide into separate things. It is not used to mean “to set apart for” (such as Rom. 1:1), an expression that must contain ebol (porj ebol e-) and is used regularly in Coptic literature. This is its correct usage and Kasser appears to know it because that is how he translates this passage in the French. This should be the translation maintained in the English as well. “Separate from” is not an alternative translation. It is the correct translation. I am glad to read that Meyer is “increasingly inclined to translate this difficult Coptic phrase as ‘set apart from.’”

While we are on this subject, I might also point out that on page 159 of the Critical Edition (James 29.2) is also incorrect. Here is the expression porj ebol e- which has wrongly been translated “these three are separated from a place of faith.” It should read “these three are set apart for a place of faith.” Who are the three? Sapphira, Susanna and Joanna who are three of the seven women disciples who receive esoteric teaching. By the way, there is no footnote in the Critical Edition indicating “set apart for” as an “alternative” reading in James 29.2.